The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they? How about a unique spin on things? These twenty productivity secrets of highly successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives.

1. Drink coffee like Beethoven.

OK, so maybe starting your day with a cup of coffee isn’t that much of a secret, but do you know how Beethoven did it? He made sure to use sixty beans per cup. Perhaps that’s the perfect amount of caffeine?

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2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings. This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time. Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

4. Work where you can.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

5. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

6. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

7. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it? Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks. Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

8. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions. By pretending you’re on an airplane you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls. Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

9. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around. It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

10. Have a Daily Action Plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a To Do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a Daily Action Plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished. Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

11. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress. There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break.

12. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

13. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day. But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch. Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work.

14. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things. Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

15. Work every day.

Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

16. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

17. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your To Do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

18. Find your golden hour.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your To Do list. Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

19. Adjust your schedule.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule! Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

20. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

Featured photo credit: Julian Partridge via flickr.com

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